By Karen Wolfe
If you take a look at the 10-year Capital Plan that is on page 19 in the 2021 Georgina budget document, it definitely looks like we should be able to raise taxes and other funding to cover planned expenditures listed in each of those 10 years.
However, Ward 1 Councillor Mike Waddington rightly pointed out that Georgina has a backlog of infrastructure repairs to existing assets that should have been completed over the last number of years–but haven’t been.
This infrastructure funding gap is in the tens of millions of dollars and that is money that isn’t accounted for in the 10-year capital plan.
In other words, the 10-year capital plan that was presented includes expenditures that staff expects council will support but it ignores the backlog in upkeep and repairs to existing infrastructure that are needed now and will be needed in the upcoming years.
Bottom line is, the 10-year capital plan paints a rosy picture but it doesn’t present the reality of the financial situation that the town is in.
Over two days of budget deliberations, Councillor Waddington was able to identify upwards of $50 million worth of capital maintenance projects that we haven’t financially planned for.
This includes things like a backlog of road work, buildings and facilities upkeep and smaller items such as water meter change-outs.
It goes without saying, a deeper dive into the needs of our existing infrastructure could identify even more deficiencies.
We know that property tax increases in the coming years are predicted to be in the 4 and 5 per cent range–especially if the MURC, new Civic Centre and new south Keswick fire hall projects get rolling after the pandemic. (Don’t forget, even though development charges will pay for the building of the MURC and fire hall, Georgina taxpayers are on the hook for the annual operating costs.)
Then, if the cost of the backlog for existing capital projects gets built into the plan, our tax increases could land us somewhere along the ‘shocking’ continuum.
Things may get even more tense by July 2023 when Georgina must complete an Asset Management Plan that considers the cost of maintenance for its core infrastructure assets and other municipal infrastructure assets as well.
The expectation is that this plan will need to identify the infrastructure funding gap that exists in order to be an accurate and useful planning document.
But, as we all know, that will be a problem for the next council to figure out… but at least one councillor is willing to bring it to light now